This summer, PPC hit the road for two days with Noah Kanter, a contractor serving residential customers in northern Vermont. In this article, we talk with him about his decision to hire his first employees and the challenges and benefits it has brought to him and his company.
You recently decided to make the leap and hire your first employees. What drove that decision?
I chose to hire this summer because I realized that I’ve hit my ceiling in terms of profitability and production as a one-man show. I just could not get more efficient, I could not turn over more jobs in a given year. So, it was really time to hire.
What were the biggest challenges of hiring for the first time?
I think the biggest challenge for me was mostly mental. It just felt like it was a whole lot for me to do in addition to all my other duties. When you look at all the compliance and all the regulations, it just felt like, “Oh my god, I’m going to have have to do this too?” But once I dove in it really wasn’t that bad. There are great programs and systems and accountants that can help you manage this. With an accountant overseeing, I set myself up with Quickbooks Online Payroll, a fully automated cloud accounting option, and it all became automated. Like any system it was a bit of a challenge to implement but now that it’s running, it is so smooth and I’m so glad I did it.
How do you find qualified workers?
In terms of who to hire, I followed the Nick Slavik “decent human being” hiring approach. Nick Slavik is a great contractor and thought leader out of Minnesota and he puts out a lot of good content about hiring and what he’s doing for his painting business. Instead of trying to hire people with experience, his approach is to hire a decent human being with little to no experience and mold them after you. I live in a college town – Burlington, Vermont – and there is not a shortage of college labor around here. So, I hit the schools first and did very well with that approach.
What are you doing differently now that you have to manage people?
My role has changed considerably since I hired. At first, the big transition for me was that instead of spending every minute on the job site, I now have a super green, fresh employee and I had to stop and teach. So, that was another hat I had to learn to wear and that was a transition for me – going from go, go, go to teach, teach, teach. It involved slowing down and putting myself in the total beginner shoes again.
What are the benefits?
After a few weeks, I started noticing that I was doing far less of the entry-level repetitive tasks. In a few more weeks I was able to delegate even more and then I was able to quarterback jobs at a different level with so much more room to really think about my processes. So I’m glad I did it. It is absolutely worth it. It all really starts with finding the right person and then slowing down and giving them the time of day and setting them up for success.
Noah Kanter is the owner of Nth Degree Painting in Burlington, Vermont. See more stories in our series of interviews with Noah.